Report: Braves close to a deal with Gavin Floyd

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Eddie A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun reported last night that free agent right-hander Gavin Floyd was close to signing a one-year contract with an unidentified team. That team is a mystery no longer.

According to David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Floyd is in talks with the Braves. The two sides are believed to be close to a deal, but nothing is finalized yet. It would likely be an incentive-laden pact.

Floyd made just five starts with the White Sox this past season prior to having Tommy John surgery and his flexor tendon repaired in May. While he’ll likely be a bit behind at the start of the 2014 season, he could be useful starting depth to have around. As of now, the Braves project to have a rotation of Kris Medlen, Mike Minor, Julio Teheran, Brandon Beachy and Alex Wood.

Floyd turns 31 in January and posted a 4.12 ERA from 2008-2012 while making at least 29 starts in each season.

No one pounds the zone anymore

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“Work fast and throw strikes” has long been the top conventional wisdom for those preaching pitching success. The “work fast” part of that has increasingly gone by the wayside, however, as pitchers take more and more time to throw pitches in an effort to max out their effort and, thus, their velocity with each pitch.

Now, as Ben Lindbergh of The Ringer reports, the “throw strikes” part of it is going out of style too:

Pitchers are throwing fewer pitches inside the strike zone than ever previously recorded . . . A decade ago, more than half of all pitches ended up in the strike zone. Today, that rate has fallen below 47 percent.

There are a couple of reasons for this. Most notable among them, Lindbergh says, being pitchers’ increasing reliance on curves, sliders and splitters as primary pitches, with said pitches not being in the zone by design. Lindbergh doesn’t mention it, but I’d guess that an increased emphasis on catchers’ framing plays a role too, with teams increasingly selecting for catchers who can turn balls that are actually out of the zone into strikes. If you have one of those beasts, why bother throwing something directly over the plate?

There is an unintended downside to all of this: a lack of action. As Lindbergh notes — and as you’ve not doubt noticed while watching games — there are more walks and strikeouts, there is more weak contact from guys chasing bad pitches and, as a result, games and at bats are going longer.

As always, such insights are interesting. As is so often the case these days, however, such insights serve as an unpleasant reminder of why the on-field product is so unsatisfying in so many ways in recent years.